Information, Answers & Reviews

Altered Books

Playing With BooksAmazon's blog Omnivoracious is a great read to keep up with not only what is happening at Amazon, but also generally in the publishing world, complete with reviews of reviews, author interviews, and other literary minded topics. Today's post was exceptionally astonishing and beautiful. Profiled is Chicago based artist, Brian Dettmer, who sculpts old books into amazing works of art. Check out both the blog entry and his website to see the images. I don't want to generally advocate cutting up books, but his end result is truly extraordinary.
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Judgment day: Intelligent design on trial

Yesterday I watched, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." This is a documentary about the Dover, Pennsylvania's public school system and its legal battle over whether or not to teach "Intelligent Design" alongside evolution. Of course there are two sides to every story, but one would not expect a small public school system to be in federal court on constitutional challenges to the first amendment.

On one side are the public school science teachers who prefer to only teach evolution in their classrooms because they believe that "Intelligent Design" is the same thing as biblical creationism. On the other side you have parents and a couple members of the school board who believe that evolution is a theory and that "intelligent Design" is just another alternative theory that should at least have some honorable mention.

Normally such matters would be resolved locally but this case makes it all the way to a federal courtroom to prove either that Intelligent Design is science, or that Intelligent Design is a cover for biblical creationism.

It's a tense documentary but a good one.

Atlas of Remote Islands

Atlas of Remote IslandsJust in time to get us dreaming of summer travel comes this quirky but lovely book about out-of-the-way places. Judith Schalansky grew up in East Germany when it was still situated behind the Iron Curtain. Forbidden to travel, she began a lifelong fascination with atlases and maps. The very names of these islands pull you in: Robinson Crusoe, Takuu, Possession Island, Lonely Island, Pagan, and Diego Garcia.

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March 2011 Books Plus Discussion

Let the Great World SpinThe seasons are turning again, and it's almost time for our 2011 One Book One Bloomington selection--Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. Set in 1974, this National Book Award winner chronicles the day Philippe Petit tightroped across the space between the two World Trade Towers. In masterful prose, McCann chronicles how various strangers reacted to this event. It's a book about the interrelationships between the residents of a great city, and how one man's quest for adventure brings hope, fear, and wonder to the people standing below. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times called it "one of the most electric, profound novels I have read in years."
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Just Kids

Just KidsOne of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs begins with the lines,"I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/You were talking so brave and so free." Patti Smith's memoir of her coming-of-age with artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is partially set in this hotel with its unique history and cast of characters.
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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Calpurnia TateI admit to being a streaky reader - I think this time last year I was on a World War I fiction kick. And this winter I read three books in a row about the Johnstown Flood including both fiction and non-fiction titles - Three Rivers Rising, In Sunlight In a Beautiful Garden, and The Johnstown Flood. The latter is by David McCullough, a famous historian and two time Pulitzer Prize recipient who is from Pittsburgh near the area where the flood occurred.

Recently though it seems I am reading a lot of coming of age novels featuring girls as the main character. E. Lockhart has written some wonderful contemporary coming of age novels, but for something historical I also have recently fallen for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.
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The End of Poverty?

Over the weekend I watched "The End of Poverty." This film has been in just about all of the previews of other new documentaries that I've watched so I thought it had to be a good one. The preview (see below) does grab your attention, but after watching it, I have mixed feelings about it.

We all know that poverty exists and there are some individual choices we can make to help those in need, but I don't see how we can completely reorganize our entire country to help poorer countries. Would the sum of all individuals make a collective decision to consume less and conserve more energy? That seems to be the rhetorical question that the film is asking. The answer lies with us.

Justified (2010)

There are few actors who can effectively pull off a cowboy hat anymore. Perhaps this has contributed to the relative death of the western, which is sad because I enjoy a good western. Every once in a while we'll get a True Grit or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but more often than not what we get is in the vein of the forgettable American Outlaws. Read more »

Exit Through the Gift Shop

In preparation for the upcoming Oscars, I picked up Exit Through the Gift Shop, nominated for Documentary (Feature). The film features Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant now living in L.A. Thierry is obsessed with filming. Anything that can be filmed, he films. When he discovers that his cousin is a street artist going by the name Space Invader, Thierry begins filming Space Invader's installations. Soon, Thierry expands to other street artists, Read more »

A river of waste.

There have been a number of food and "food production" documentaries out within the last two years with the most popular one being Food Inc.. Last night I saw another good one called, A river of waste. Read more »

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